Eric Paine runs down the Porter main street and goes to Aaron's house. He yells for help, and Penny finally comes out. Eric tells her that someone is killing his mother Gina, and she calls to Aaron to bring his rifle.
Once he summons Hoby, Aaron goes to the Paine house and Hoby meets him there. Aaron says that Gina is in bad shape and the doctor is on the way. He relates that Eric heard that someone was talking to Gina, and came out and found the man hitting her. Eric doesn't know who the man was. Doc comes in and tells Hoby to speak to Gina. When he does, Gina insists that she never did anything to him. She says that she didn't know her killer, mutters the name "Joel" and says that he wanted Eric, but she wouldn't let him and he hit her. Gina dies and Hoby goes out and tells Doc. He confirms that Gina is dead, and Aaron tells Hoby that Joel was Gina's husband. Hoby wants him brought in and every unknown person in Porter picked up.
The men of the town form a posse and Hoby orders them to bring in every stranger in town. The next day, Hoby questions all of the strangers but comes up with nothing. Hoby figures that Aaron knows something about Joel and demands answers. Aaron finally tells him that Joel is in a penitentiary doing a life-term for murder. Eight years ago, Eric's father died on a cattle drive and Gina remarried. Joel hated seeing Eric because it reminded him that Gina was married before, but wanted him to get back at Gina. Aaron, Penny, and Doc kept it secret to avoid hurting Gina. Hoby figures that Joel sent the killer but neither of them knows how he pulled it off.
Penny brings Eric in on the way to buy some new clothes. Hoby tells him that his mother is dead, and Eric says that he knows his mother is dead. The ranger goes to send a telegram, and Penny invites him to join them for dinner that night. As they head out, Eric sees a man, Dean Burke, walking down the street and says that he killed Gina. Hoby goes after Dean, who runs. The Ranger corners Dean in an alley and gets the drop on him. He holsters his gun and invites Dean to shoot, and them outdraws him when he goes for his gun. Dean surrenders and admits that Joel told him to bring Eric back or Joel would kill him. He explains that they broke out a week ago, and Joel told him that if he got caught, he told him to tell Hoby that Joel will kill anyone who gets in his way.
Hoby takes Dean to jail and serves him a meal. He says that Joel came to Porter to see his kid, and people around him know him so he sent Dean. Dean doesn't want to discuss what Joel will think about him for killing Gina, Hoby threatens to knock the truth out of Dean, but Dean figures that he doesn't dare lay a hand on him. He insists that Joel will get him out as Hoby walks out.
Later, Hoby and Ralph load their rifles. Aaron and Penny arrive, and Hoby tells them that he's made reservations for Penny and Eric at the hotel. Once the brother and sister leave, Hoby tells Ralph that Joel will have to go through them to get Dean out. they take up positions on the street and assign other men to watch the hotel. Three days pass, and Penny approaches Hoby and tells him that Eric is gone. They search the hotel but find no sign of Eric. One watcher saw Joel take Eric away and Hoby frees Dean and demands answers.. Aaron comes in and says that they saw Joel trying to steal a horse at a barn near the station. Joel ducked inside and they don't know if he's alone.
Hoby has all of the men go to the station and goes in alone. The Ranger takes cover and calls to Joel, but gets no response. As Hoby moves in, Joel fires a shot at him and Hoby ducks out of cover. Hoby tells Joel to let Eric go, and says that he can ride out of town if he does. Joel agrees and tells Hoby to stand up and drop his gun. once he does so, Joel starts to climb down.
Penny goes to the barn to watch the events, and Eric walks up and says that he went to his house to get his school books. Aaron yells to Hoby that Eric is all right, and Joel tells Hoby that he just went along with Hoby's assumption. Hoby refuses to go, figuring that he's dead whether he cooperates or not. He calls Joel a coward and advances on the man, and Joel backs into a rack. Hoby punches him unconscious and Aaron comes in and helps Hoby take Joel away.
Later, Hoby talks to Eric. He says that when he was a kid, Joel didn't like him much. Eric remembers how Gina and Joel used to argue about him, and he felt bad because he was causing trouble. Penny assures him that wasn't the case, and Eric figures that Joel must have loved him to do what he did. Hoby and the others hesitantly agree, and they take Eric home.
Written by Gadfly on Aug 27, 2017